From the Editor
A few places are still available for our non-residential Autumn School at Lillian Road, which will be held this year on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October. All readers are cordially invited to attend. The cost will be £2.50 per person per day, to include tea, coffee and biscuits, but participants will be asked to bring their own lunch. We shall listen to tapes of talks by Phiroz Mehta, and talks by other members, have discussions, go for walks, etc. It has always been a very happy and informal occasion, and it is hoped that as many people as possible will be able to attend. Would anyone interested please contact the Editor as soon as possible.
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Caxton Hall on 18th November 1953
In the Gospel of St. Luke (3. 23–38), a line of ascent is traced from Jesus right up to Adam, which was the Son of God. If we turn to Genesis, we find that God creates Adam in his own likeness. Adam at the age of 130, it is alleged, begets Seth in his own likeness; Seth at the age of 105, it is alleged, begets Enos in his own likeness. From the time of Enos, men begin to call upon the name of the Lord. Enos at 90, begets Cainan, and so the line goes on to Noah, who is apparently a mature 500 before the arrival of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. It comes to pass when men begin to multiply on earth, and daughters are born unto them, that the sons of God, seeing that the daughters of men were fair, take them as wives, as many as they choose. To them children are born. These become mighty men, of renown, heroes. But God sees that great is the wickedness of man, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. Then comes the Flood. It is commonly regarded as a flood of destruction — or was it, in reality, a flood of purification? But since Noah walked with God, he found grace in the eyes of the Lord. So too earlier Enoch walked with God. And it is said of Enoch that Enoch was not, for God took him, whereas it is said of all the others that they lived so many years and died. More than two thousand years later, Elijah is transported by a whirlwind to heaven in a chariot of fire. Almost another millennium swings past, and there takes place the resurrection of Jesus.
Just as there is a line of ascent traced from Jesus to God, so too in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which is at least seven or eight centuries earlier than the time of St. Luke, a line of ascent is traced from Pautimashya to Brahman Svayambhu, Self-existent God.
Adam and Eve are called the first parents. So too in the Iranian tradition, Yima and his sister-spouse Yimak are called the parents of the first mortals. Like Adam, Yima too falls from grace. Just as Enoch and Elijah are credited with not dying, so too in the Iranian tradition, Kai-Kushro, one of the great king-sages, retires from the world, and, immortal, awaits the day of return, to rule over a world wherein righteousness shall have triumphed. Immortal too is the great priest, the Dastur Paishotan. Even as Jesus spells redemption from Adam’s sin, Zarathushtra heals the deadly wound of Yima’s self-pride.
But now, in the Rig-Vedic tradition there is no fall from grace by Yama and his sister-spouse Yami. Yama, it is said, chooses death and abandons his body, passes to the other world, and is given lordship over the highest of the three heavens. Yama becomes the Lord of Death, that is the Master of Death, not to be confused with Mrityu or Mara, the death-dealer. Yama is the first to win immortality. Again, the great Rig-Vedic Rishis, those sacred singers of the song of Eternal Life, see the gods, communicate with them, and are at home with them, even as Adam and his generations and all the prophets of Israel are with the Lord.
What does it all mean? To this day there are prophets, there are munis, there are those who are at home with God. But you will not find them among the haunts of men, or at least you will not easily find them, unless you have the trained eye with which to see. Since the old days, centuries and millennia have streamed past. Theologians and philosophers of religion have piled system upon system, like bundle upon bundle of cut grass making a haystack. The heavy voice of orthodoxy is too much like the voice of him in a stupor, laden with the burden of mere learning. Those whose cold, black light of intellect is unredeemed by insight, flounder about with their ideas like fish caught in a net. Some delight in gazing upon an apparent emptiness in distant space, swinging their catastrophic instruments of observation onto it and crying out “Ha! A new island universe is discovered!” And then voracious intellect gorges itself to sickness on thousands and thousands of new, hard facts, and spews out rows and rows of mighty tomes, whilst the Book of Life gets buried deeper and deeper under the gathering dust of knowledge, and the eyes of God moisten slowly, as the cloud of unknowing is thickened by man into an almost impenetrable fog.
And yet, not just there but here, not just yesterday or tomorrow but now, is the Incarnate Truth. Not lost in the temporal movement of the space-time world, but poised here-now in fulfilment in eternal existence, is the meaning of it all, is the activity which brings all manifestation to fruition in terms of eternal beauty, is the supreme possibility of the realization of the consciousness of the Kingdom of Heaven, of Brahman-knowing, of Nirvana. And all this is for you, here-now. It is yours. Take it. You are free. And if you can’t take it, it means that you are not free, and all your vaunted individuality and self-determination and democracy is a make-believe, a fantastic, hurtful to your neighbour and hurtful to yourself, make-believe.
Come with me on a fascinating journey. Once upon a time, in the faraway yesterday, before Adam, there was a group of people whose sense of wonder deepened as they grew older. They were touched with the dissatisfaction engendered by the circle of mortality. They yearned for an indefinable fulfilment of their lives. And they considered the question of sorrow. Whence, why and whither were also questions which disturbed them. How endless and meaningless seemed the round of uprising-proceeding-dying, uprising-proceeding-dying! Was there an escape from it, an escape which would spell immortality here-now, and ineffable peace, and the certitude that this-all was worthwhile? Or was immortality reserved for the gods alone, or maybe for some over-god, miserable autocrat over all gods and men?
So these men brooded, seeking the significance of all experience, seeking the eternal creative fount of all existence. And when they died, as indeed each and every single body dies, never to resurrect again, their disciples continued to seek. And they discovered that the more they discarded all their preconceptions and vain beliefs, the more they cultivated continual mindfulness, the more they understood themselves and tamed and trained themselves, the nearer they approached their goal. This goal could not be easily defined — to this day it cannot be clearly defined — but it could be fully experienced. These men discovered that in the effort to hold the mind still, guarded, deliberately abstracted from the impacts of the world via the senses, a new awareness of existence began to emerge, and a profounder understanding of certain matters was obtained through concentrated attention.
Now, as one enters profounder states of consciousness, if the next succeeding stage cannot be successfully reached, the practitioner may return to ordinary consciousness, as most people do. If he is already in one of the deeper states of consciousness and cannot deliberately go deeper, he may fall asleep, as did the disciples of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; or, if he loses control, not detrimentally, he may “see” visions and “hear” messages; or, if he loses control to a serious extent, he may become obsessed — possessed of a devil, as said in the New Testament — which is a sorry condition; or, he may go off into a deep trance, in which a partly-healing, a whole-making or integrative process goes on. He is unaware of the process, but enjoys the fruit of it — and not all of it is beneficial — on returning to ordinary consciousness.
Adam was the first (or one among the very earliest) of the human race to go off into such a deep trance. That is the so-called sleep the Lord God causes to fall upon him. On waking up, he finds Eve, fully formed, which means that he becomes clearly conscious of his own psyche as being complementary to his normal masculinity. But what is far more important is that Adam is convinced of unitary selfhood and of the unity of the universe. From this is born the conviction, and the consequent teaching, that there is only the One God, a conviction which scatters into emptiness the host of many gods. Their ephemeral day is over, and they proceed to disappear like moths devoured by a flame.
But Adam’s conviction is not a full and true realization. He has not sufficient self-knowledge and self-discipline to prevent his own fall. Unable to maintain the consequences in daily life of the consciousness of unitary God, his awareness sinks back to the level of the circle of mortality — this is the eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, in the cool of the evening (the time for prayer or meditation, for restoring the deeper states of consciousness), the Lord God, as it is said in Genesis, asks, “Where art thou, Adam?”, meaning, to what level has your consciousness sunk?
Physically Adam lives a normal human length of life, and not 930 years as said in the Bible. About 130 years after Adam arises Seth, who is developed enough to succeed to the mastership vacated by Adam. That is the meaning of Adam begetting Seth in his own likeness at the age of 130. Adam’s teaching flourishes for about a millennium. That is the meaning of all the days of Adam being 930 years. But when the seventh successor to Adam appears on the scene, the deepest depth of consciousness is touched, for Enoch realizes immortality here-now in full superconsciousness. That is the meaning of the statement that “Enoch was not, for God took him.” The body of Enoch unquestionably died, like any other body dies.
Continued in part 2 and part 3
By William Grice
I was about five or six years old when I first met Mr. Mehta, the father of John and Robert, my new friends from Primary School.
When Rosemary Monk learned that I had known Phiroz from such an early age, it was gently hinted that my childhood memories of him would make an interesting article for the Newsletter. It seemed a simple enough matter to rummage though the archives of my mental filing cabinet, and I could see that much of what I had taken for granted just might be of interest to some. In any event, to refuse such a request would be churlish, and I promised to produce a draft in a week or two.
Confession being good for the soul, many moons have waxed and waned since the third metaphor in this mixture, the good intentions which are paved to somewhere or other. Several attempts were actually started and finished — in the wastepaper basket where they belong; writing anything about Phiroz seemed to be far from the simple matter I had supposed!
The main difficulty arises not from an inability to recall too little from those times of some fifty years ago. Far from it, once the process of recollection began, the flood-gates opened. If the resultant inundation came as a surprise, the complexity of influences, unseen at the time, were more of a revelation.
Perhaps the fondest memories are of the times when “Phiz-Pop” (and here I must apologise to John and Robert for divulging the delightfully inventive term of endearance coined for their father) would take the three of us to the local park to play cricket. The image of “Mr. Mehta” — I have always felt awkward calling him Phiroz — joining in our games with such obvious enjoyment has remained vividly, and occasionally would come to mind at our meetings at Dilkusha. With hindsight, it must have required a high degree of skill to consistently bowl to us with such pace, line and length to enhance our enthusiastic batting. This, combined with some remarkably dextrous dropped catches, ensured that at close of play honours were even, irrespective of any differences in ability, and in particular my lack of it.
One incident serves to illustrate his qualities of equanimity and indefinable aura of gentle strength, of which we are all aware. This “effortless aura”, for want of a more appropriate term, was evident to me, even as a small boy, but I saw it demonstrated so powerfully, it left an indelible impression. During one of our games, a group of older boys threatened a quite hostile attack. My instinct was to grab the cricket bat as a weapon, but Mr. Mehta was leaning on it. The ringleader approached him, shouting and taunting. What followed was something I could never have expected since I had never before experienced such response. Mr. Mehta had the full attention of the leader, because he was paying intense attention to him, perfectly quietly and dispassionately. It seemed that all eyes were held by that gaze, and, as if the non-sense of their behaviour was revealed to them and acknowledged by them, they grew quiet and just walked away. The game was resumed as if there had been no interruption.
It is quite astonishing that the memory can produce so much, and so clearly, of events thought to have been lost in the mists of time. Once triggered, a whole chain leads from one to another. To recount just a few, I can picture small boys squatting under the piano in Phiroz’s study. I can’t remember why we were, but the room certainly had an atmosphere of tranquillity which held a strong fascination. Our combined capacity for mischief was aptly summed up by a rhyme which Silvia (Mrs. Mehta to me) would recite with amusement: “One boy’s a boy, two boys are half a boy, and three boys are no boys at all.”
There was usually a measure of inventiveness to this mischief, which developed (or degenerated) into some dramatic experiments, as our curiosity about the nature of things grew. There were some spectacular investigations into the explosive nature of coal-gas when combined with the appropriate mix of air. Inverted biscuit tins full of gas were carried into the garden, where a lighted match was applied to the plume allowed to escape from a small hole. Retire to safe distance and await desired mixture to arrive and interact with the flame! Watch with satisfaction as tin was propelled skywards by the explosion! What Mr. and Mrs. Mehta really thought of the pranks of those dear little boys, I shall never know. I did however suspect that the duly delivered admonishment was not made any easier by an element of suppressed laughter.
For most of the time, my friends’ father was rather a remote figure, clearly preoccupied with matters to which he devoted his complete attention with a rare single-mindedness. Although this may have seemed unusual at the time, it is now perfectly understood. Phiroz was not one to ever do anything in a half-hearted manner. Paradoxically, he had a tremendous sense of humour, especially for the absurdities of life, which would be revealed fairly frequently. One example I recall particularly was of him coming out of his study quaking with uncontrollable mirth. He explained with difficulty that the reason for it was coming across the Gregorian prayer “Lord, make me chaste — but not just yet!”
If these anecdotes do provide a slightly different viewpoint of Phiroz (without differing overmuch from how my fellow young rascals John and Robert remember them!), “mission accomplished.” For my part, the exercise has also served as a reminder of the extent to which my life has been enriched by the family Mehta in general, and by Phiroz in particular.
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